Staging Depth: Eugene O'Neill and the Politics of Psychological Discourse

By Joel Pfister | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

Staging Depth undertakes something radically new in the study of Eugene O'Neill: an interpretation of his works from the perspective of the fictions that sustained them. Formal experimentation and thematic obsession make up the usual stuff of O'Neill criticism, but Joel Pfister seeks to break that conventional mold. He practices a skeptical criticism here, one that refuses to take the author at his own word and looks instead under and beyond the author's words and the mentality they project in search of cultural sources and historical causes. Pfister re-places O'Neill within the history of a precise segment of middle-class desire, aspiration, and self-doubt, joins O'Neill not only to a social history of shifting fortunes in the early twentieth century but also to an intellectual history of shifting values and outlooks during the period (the 1910s and 1920s especially) when corporate capitalism consolidated its domain of control within U.S. culture. Without ever allowing O'Neill to slip from sight, Staging Depth offers an acutely conceived and richly documented brief history of cultural changes in twentieth-century America.

The main issue in both the history and the literary criticism here is the concept of "depth"—and the category of the "psychological," of which it partakes. A literary critic in the first instance, Pfister takes his historicism seriously enough actually to become a historian, and a very good one. He does not just gesture at history; he digs into sources, scours the archives, reads widely in recent monographs. The result is a well‐ packed and nuanced argument that ties the emergence of a distinct middle-class stratum of managers and professionals to changes in family life and sexual expectations; political movements among "new women," intellectuals, and artists; the Harlem Renaissance; and experimental modernism in personal life and art. O'Neill centers this wide-ranging undertaking, and the historical discourse in Staging Depth in turn recenters O'Neill for us as a figure more than anecdotally linked to the forces that shaped his era.

It is the fusion of its author's two roles as scholarly historian and ideological critic that makes Staging Depth such a stunning achievement. One feature of the book deserves special mention for its courage and its finesse. The deconstructive historicist criticism that Pfister practices with great skill often takes the form of a kind of scandalmongering, exposing the complicity of established writers in bad discourses of gen

-xi-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Staging Depth: Eugene O'Neill and the Politics of Psychological Discourse
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 327

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.